Week 014 (7.12.20)
‘It’s not how you write an L,’ L. exclaims in protest. I lock eyes with her mother and we both roll eyes, remembering the berating I received the previous week for my ‘t’. This week I had applied my handwriting, wracking my brain for the half remembered shapes of letters in my childhood.
‘I learned to write in France, so maybe we write differently,’ I comment as L. launches into another explosive protest against my handwriting. At my words she falls silent and looks up to her mother.
‘Mommy learned to write differently too, remember?’ I can see L. thinking about this. She doesn’t seem too convinced but the argument holds enough weight that she stops criticising my writing.
‘Tell you what, next time, you can write your name on your certificate.’ L. cowers, uncertain of how the conversation moved on so quickly from her cries to this. She remains quiet. Her mother and I exchange looks again, smiling warmly at the little girl by our side.
‘Isn’t that nice L.? Next time you can write your own certificate.’ She nods in silent approval and we say our goodbyes, a bemused child leaving the centre with yet another badly written certificate.
I linger at the window a while longer, watching the family go – always the first to arrive and last to leave. The sun is warm against my face. The sky above is blue and everyone is happy and I am too. But I know it is not this simple. All week I have wavered from content to lost. Ever since week 11 I have swayed to the rhythm of questions racing in my mind. It has been less than a month and yet I feel like a lifetime has passed. Days shorten and widen like an elastic band, the weeks passing in a blur of thoughts and research in an attempt to understand me better.
Five things you can see… I tell myself to drag myself out of my spiralling thoughts. The sun, the blade of grass on the platform left behind by a shoe, the gulls tapping the ground to imitate rain, the bikes being cleaned, a stray cloud in the sky.
Four things you can hear… The chatter of volunteers and instructors, the tapping on the keyboard by my colleague, my hands rubbing at the wood of the counter, a touch of wind?
Three things you can touch… The litany continues in my head as I ground myself one sense at a time, remembering the here and now.
At the end of the exercise, my steps are slower, my fingers less jittery. I walk to the kettle, knowing an order of teas will be imminent. I listen to the water come to a boil, the noise filling the space with a roar that obliterates anything else around. I try to think of the week that has gone but it all blurs. It is Saturday and Monday feels centuries ago.
Monday was my birthday I tell myself. It was an easy day, a day of rest, of gentle board games, and cosy films on the TV. Tuesday we went into town I remind myself. It was good to see life but it drained me, my body shutting down, every step requiring all of my energy by the end of the day. Wednesday there was frost on the ground, the heat of summer finally leeching away from the earth. Thursday I was tender and bruised, happy to have the office to myself to retreat in the stillness of nothingness. Friday I dropped off on the sofa bed of the study, my senses on high alert, the smell of the bedroom unfathomable to me. And today I am at work under a big blue sky. Tomorrow it will rain, bringing quiet and silence to work, customers cancelling or hurrying from their cars to the bicycles and back again.
‘I am tired,’ I mumble to myself. I remember the offer of the doctor in week 11 to sign me off work for however long I thought I would need. It is so tempting to call them and ask to be signed off but it is only a week until the Christmas break, just one week to live through before time is my own, before I can retreat within myself and be free to begin to process the enormity of what I have come to realise about myself and start to live anew.
The kettle silences and my body turns to well known gestures. One weak tea for A., one strong tea for G., one unspecified strength tea for J., one black tea for C. I wonder again how C. can drink this cheap black tea, too coarse on the tongue for me.
I balance the mugs on the tray before opening the door with my elbow. Cold engulfs me immediately, wrapping my body into its embrace. I shiver but carry on to the picnic table under the outdoor shelter. I drop off the teas, spacing them out as much as I can for everybody to collect.
I return to the office, pausing briefly to feel the sun on my skin, jealous of the cyclist I had met earlier on their way to Chew Valley. Their words had filled me with such longing tangled in a web of fear. ‘Enjoy,’ I had told them, my mind filled with memories of well known roads and landscapes. I would have like to chat more with them, ask details of their route but I couldn’t. I was too envious of their freedom of movement and mind.
I return to memories of Monday, body lain across the floor, hands attempting to take off a block off our Jenga tower. Two cocktails and a beer had not impaired my dexterity as much as I had expected. This had gone much better than our games of indoor boules, doors and walls skewing the direction of our throws. I had laughed easily then, something that comes and goes at the moment, joy and sadness taking turns to inhabit my soul. I do not know how to return to more stability. I do not remember when stability is, lost in the long ago world of 2019 probably.
I settle at my desk, turning my attention to the task of checking the earnings from the past sessions and preparing for the one to come. I am not sad, I tell myself as I gather the receipts. And this much, in this exact moment, is true.